The last eight months have been pretty grim, as far as the PC market is concerned — we’ve spent a lot more time writing about shortages than launches. One corner of the PC market that hasn’t been a disaster, at least thus far, is the SSD storage market — and recent storage market reports suggest that consumer machines are moving over to solid-state media at a brisk pace.
THG reports on a mix of data from Trendfocus and StorageNewsletter. Data shows hard drive shipments of 64.17 million between the top three hard drive manufacturers in Q1 2021, while the top SSD manufacturers shipped ship shy of 100 million drives through the same period. That works out to a shipment ratio of ~3:2.
If you have PCs you haven’t upgraded to an SSD yet, this is a great time to do so. In addition to being one of the few PC components that remains available at a reasonable price, SSDs can breathe new life into even the oldest PCs.
Even if a PC is 5-10 years old, the CPU inside it is still faster than any other component in the system. Swapping an SSD for an HDD, therefore, can still improve its performance. It’ll even do so in a system with insufficient memory — if nothing else, the swap file will run a heck of a lot faster. Obviously, in these cases, an SSD and a few GB of legacy RAM is the best solution, but any system with a SATA port can theoretically benefit from an SSD.
Thankfully, the laptop market is starting to recognize that fact. At Dell, Inspiron laptops as low as $294 sell with NVMe SSDs — only 128GB, to be sure, but SSDs nonetheless. Various reports suggest the median PC worldwide is between four and five years old, which means people buying in 2020 were replacing hardware that was built in 2015 or 2016. The percentage of consumer systems shipping with SSDs back then was much lower, and that means a lot of lower-end buyers were more likely to get a storage speed boost if they bought in the past 15 months.
The pandemic drove a 13 percent increase in PC sales last year and the trend has continued in 2021. In Q1 2021, PC sales hit 84 million units, compared with 59 million units in Q1 2019.
SSDs may be out-shipping hard drives in overall units, but HDDs continue to reign supreme in drive capacity. Measured in exabytes shipped, hard drives continue to have a 4.5:1 advantage over SSDs. QLC has helped solid-state storage close the gap, but hard drives remain the best choice if you need maximum data density and aren’t too picky about performance.
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